In Sweden it is easier to buy an apartment than to find one to rent long-term. That is not to say that buying is a simple process, just that the supply is way greater. Before diving into the details of the process, I’d like to have a quick look at that supply. Booli.se is great for checking out some stats — all the numbers below are retrieved from there. Note that Booli gets its information from multiple sources, so some details for particular properties might get garbled in the process, but it still works beautifully for assessing the general picture.
Let’s try Stockholm first:
Apartments sold in 2020 so far: 9831
Lowest price: 155 000 SEK for 15m² (that’s an outlier and possibly an invalid data point, the next-lowest is 1 150 000 SEK)
Highest price: 56 780 000 SEK for 354 m² (also an outlier, followed by four apartments for ~30 million and 25 for ~20 million)
Lowest price per square meter: 10 333 SEK/m², immediately followed by 18 349 SEK/m²
Highest price per square meter: 373 333 SEK/m², immediately followed by 190 476 SEK/m²
Biggest fall from the suggested price during the bidding: -55.7% immediately followed by -34.9%
Biggest raise from the suggested price during the bidding: +1031.1% immediately followed by +74.9%
There are approximately 7500 apartments for which the change in the price was positive due to the bidding (the rest got sold for the asking price or lower).
Apartments for sale (including new construction): 6281
Lowest asking price: 995 000 SEK for 84m²
Highest asking price: 55 000 000 SEK for 200m², immediately followed by 45 million for 275m² and 31 million for 263m²
Lowest asking price per square meter: 11 916 SEK/m² immediately followed by 16 468 SEK/m² and 18 303 SEK/m²
Highest asking price per square meter: 275 000 SEK/m² which quickly cools down to 150 000 SEK/m².
To summarize, there are thousands of apartments available, they cost a few million (6 million will get 2–3 rooms in fancy Östermalm, 3 million is 1 room in Södermalm or 2–3 rooms a bit more outside of downtown, 1 million is something like 25m² on the outskirts). Those are asking prices though, and bidding changes them a lot, usually upwards.
Prices in other places in Sweden are somewhat lower, but not ten times lower.
in Gothenburg, the second biggest city, there were more than 3000 apartments sold in 2020 so far, the cheapest being 27m² (~0.9 million SEK), and the most expensive one — 170m² (~11 million). There are more than 700 apartments available for sale with the asking prices ranging from one million to 60 (within the ten most expensive apartments though it comes down to 11 million)
in Malmö, the third biggest city, 2665 apartments were sold. Cheapest: 11m² for 0.4 million, most expensive: 160m² for 9.7. More than 800 apartments are for sale with the asking prices 0.4–11 million SEK
Örebro, population 124 000: ~500 apartments sold, prices of 0.2–14.6 million SEK, ~200 apartments for sale, prices are 0.4–6 million.
With crazy expensive and crazy small apartments removed from consideration, the
range for an apartment in Sweden comes out at 1–4 million SEK
(approximately 100–400k EUR). I’ll get into more details later in this series
of posts, but generally speaking there are two things necessary to get a
mortgage: 1) 15% of the final price for the apartment, and 2) proof of stable
I such that
final price ≤ 4.5×I. For example, if Anders has
150k SEK on his account and a permanent contract with his employer where his
yearly salary comes to 222k before tax (monthly ~18.5k), he will most probably
get a loan to buy an apartment for 1 million. If he wants an apartment for 2
million, he’ll need both to save up more (300k) and get a raise (to 444k
yearly/37k monthly). It is also very important to keep that job contract
permanent, and it is beneficial to have it in SEK and not any other currency.
There is in fact a second part to the price question, and that’s månadsavgift (or just avgift). This is the monthly fee set by the owners association, and it finances all the expenses, from paying off the loan for the building(s) to utilities like the trash being taken away or the internet.
Apartments in a newly built house might have a higher avgift because the loan for it is still very high. In older buildings it might also become high if there’s a major renovation coming up and the owners association did not plan for it particularly well. Also, if the land on which the building stands is not owned but rented by the association, the avgift depends on the ever-rising rent (it is reviewed every few years as a rule).
Unlike rentals, the apartments for sale are meticulously photographed. They might look a bit weird at first — what’s with the close-up pictures of the fruit on the kitchen counter? Does everyone who sells an apartment really have that many pillows? Why do so many apartments look so much alike? The answer is, pretty much everyone uses a real estate professional’s services, and that’s what they make out of any apartment. The owners are supposed to clean it very thoroughly and then adjust it to fit into the standard look which is meant to give the prospective buyers a “fresh” feeling. Or, well, a fräsch one, to be precise.
There is a Swedish word for spending a lot of time on the internet looking at the properties (mostly those you can’t afford): hemnetberoende (Hemnet-addicted). But it’s not just hemnet.se where one can do that.
Booli — made by a privately owned company and tightly collaborating with the state-owned SBAB bank as of recently, this website positions itself as a search engine for accommodation ads. Sellers don’t directly put an ad on booli — they put it somewhere else, and booli finds it. Good supporting information: history of sales nearby, development of the prices in the area over the past few years, high-level assessment of the owners association. Warning: since they take the ads from multiple places, it doesn’t always work out perfectly; for example, a house might have 14 hectares of land but booli’s parser will mistake it for 14 square meters, and the house won’t appear in a search for “more land than 100 m²”.
Hemnet — made by a bunch of brokers but sold to an American private equity firm in 2016 which led to a price hike for the brokers using the service. No private ads here. Possible to filter by visningtid — for example, only show the apartments which you can visit this weekend. Good supporting information: high-level assessment of the owners association, a map where you can calculate the time it takes to get from the apartment to somewhere else by car, bike, or public transport, development of the prices in the area over the past few years.
blocket.se’s Bostad — made by a privately held company, open for person-to-person sales. Apartments are not their focus (blocket.se is for selling anything and everything) so there is no supporting information, just the ad itself. A few years ago owners of Blocket tried to buy Hemnet, but couldn’t do it due to competition law.
HittaHem — bought by Bonnier News, the big old corporation owning a lot of Swedish media outlets. No supporting information, heavy focus on getting the user to sign up for email notifications when there’s a new apartment available in the particular area. That particular area can be drawn on the map (as opposed to the usual functionality of naming the district or similar).
Boneo — owned by Länsförsäkringar and a few other big brokers who claim to have a third of the market together. Created as a reaction to the price hike of Hemnet’s services. No supporting information yet. Besides Sweden, covers a few other countries (for summer houses and such).
BoVision — used to be cool before Hemnet. Exists since 1996 and has been sold a few times, currently owned by a private media company. Besides Sweden, covers a few other countries like France and the US. Doesn’t show the search results on a map. No private ads. No supporting information.
Unfortunately, filtering is not overly developed on either of these websites. Want to have a bathtub, and not just a shower? Really set on having a balcony? Not interested in the apartments on the ground floor? Want to ensure the dishwasher is already there? Maybe looking at the houses and want to consider only those connected to the internet by fiber? None of these things can be filtered by. The user of the website can either search by the keywords (hoping that the broker decided to highlight exactly those features in the short text of the ad) or go through every photo of every ad which matches easier parameters (e.g. price, size — those can be filtered by). They have started adding tags like balkong (balcony) and hiss (elevator) on Hemnet, but it doesn’t look like 100% coverage yet. Similarly, on Boneo there are some search keywords to be selected (e.g. balcony, terrace) but they aren’t many and don’t seem to cover all the ads either.
For a humorous side of the apartment search, check out Hemnetknarkarna’s instagram.
Also in this series:
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